There was a curious narrative that unfolded Sunday after the New York Giants lost to the Rams 38-11 to drop to 1-5 on the season. It centered on second-year head coach Joe Judge needing to "challenge" or "motivate" his players at halftime of the game, and concern that should emanate from needing to liven up a group not even halfway through the year.
The halftime speech, I'm told, was nothing out of the ordinary that any coach down 28-3 would tell their players. Judge tried to downplay it later in the week -- "maybe it was misinterpreted," he offered -- but it didn't seem to matter by then.
For what it's worth, the Giants aren't folding their tents at all, according to several team sources.
"I don't get that feeling that guys aren't all in," one source told me this week. "The QB [Daniel Jones] is always in here watching film. But guys were in Monday when they didn't have to be getting a lift in and watching film."
It's a positive sign for a team in desperate need of a turnaround. But figuring out why this team finds itself in need of a turnaround for a fifth consecutive season is equal parts difficult and maddening.
This is not a team that had a large margin for error. After all, this team had 10 games that were decided by eight points or fewer last season and won (or lost, depending on your perspective) half of them. Injuries have hurt the Giants, and that's where the margin is most notable. The Ravens, with all their IR'd guys, are 5-1 while the Giants' record is the opposite of that.
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Blake Martinez is lost for the year, and a source asked me just how many teams Tae Crowder and Reggie Ragland would be starting on in this league. Not many is the answer. The Giants had to make a decision this offseason on Dalvin Tomlinson or Leonard Williams and they picked the Big Cat, but I'm told "Dalvin's impact was greater than people thought," and there was always an argument to be made about bang-for-your-buck between those two even as Williams is having the better season. It could be as simple as the defense overachieved last season.
Kenny Golladay and Jones didn't connect enough in the offseason after the Giants inked Golladay to the four-year, $72 million deal. So the scratch from which they essentially started in training camp was then cut short due to a Golladay injury -- something the Lions factored into their decision-making when not offering him the franchise tag. Golladay is again injured and there's no reason to believe they'll finally make things click once he returns.
And Saquon Barkley's ankle injury came just as he was telling those around him and in the building how good he felt. "He had a great week of practice going into Dallas" a source said, and then his ankle ballooned and he suffered yet another setback.
Injuries happen. Concussions, in this sport, happen. But Judge has developed a reputation as a disciplinarian over there, and I felt it fair to wonder if he's overworking guys.
"I don't hear guys complaining about work," one source said. Others in the building backed that up, too.
I'm told it's too early to start gauging just how hot the seats are with the Giants. Another failure to make the playoffs would seem to spell the end for Dave Gettleman in New York, especially since he's in the final year of his contract. But anything happening in-season seems unlikely at this point, especially considering the loyalty co-owner John Mara feels for his hires. Judge is in the second year of a five-year deal and, as long as there's not a catastrophic end to the season, his job will be safe.
The Giants are fast running out of opportunities at a turnaround, though. If they lose to Carolina on Sunday, it's hard to see them beating any of their next three opponents in Kansas City, Las Vegas and Tampa.
Dolphins lone landing spot for Watson
The news Wednesday that the Texans and Dolphins are nearing a deal to send Deshaun Watson to Miami should have come as no surprise to anyone following this story. The Dolphins have "been bidding against themselves" as one league source put it, since they're the only team remaining in the Watson "sweepstakes" before the Nov. 2 trade deadline.
Sources have told me Watson wouldn't be interested in Philadelphia and the ship to Carolina sailed before the start of the season. Watson is either a Dolphin by the trade deadline or he'll remain a Texan until the start of the new league year in March.
Houston's motivation for getting the word out about a potential deal is obvious. The Texans want to let buyers know this is their last chance to get in on Watson in an effort to raise the Dolphins' offering. Houston doesn't own much leverage here considering his no-trade clause.
The reason the Dolphins want to trade for Watson now may not necessarily be for 2021, though. It's unclear whether the league would ultimately put him on the commissioner's exempt list, as the NFL has been waiting on the Houston police to move along in its investigation before proceeding and with the comfort of knowing the Texans would sit Watson so they didn't have to.
NFL commissioner Roger Goodell was in Miami earlier this month for a Colts-Dolphins game and sat in owner Stephen Ross' suite. I have no sourcing on what the two men may have discussed over that time, but maybe Watson came up once, huh?
The math for the Dolphins is that when they trade for him, he could be suspended for some or all of the remaining regular season. His serious legal issues -- 22 civil lawsuits for alleged sexual misconduct and assault, all of which Watson denies -- would have reached its conclusion by the start of the 2022 regular season. The Dolphins would have been able to acquire Watson this fall for (potentially) less than they would have in March had they needed to compete with several QB-needy teams who could be in the running for Watson should the legal issues reach their conclusion during the winter.
Beckham trade scenario
There are plenty of reasons why the Browns wouldn't trade Odell Beckham Jr. before the Nov. 2 deadline. There's the fact that he's been banged up enough in recent years that it'd be hard to move the remainder of his $9 million-plus salary. Then there's the fact the Browns still believe they're a playoff team and would be better off in January with Beckham on the roster than without him but a midround pick in the draft.
But the one scenario I can see where Beckham is shipped off is if a contending team (preferably in the NFC) loses their No. 1 wide receiver to injury for a significant period of time. That would be enough for a team to call the Browns and be willing to roll the dice on Beckham with his health plus salary.
The Browns aren't impatiently waiting for that call, though. I don't get the sense they're making or getting calls about Beckham, and I believe they'll be fine if that's the case through the second afternoon of November. But that's the one way I could see Beckham being elsewhere in 2021.
Week 7 picks
Best week of the year from a tough week of picks for this guy. I went 12-2 in Week 6 to bump my season record up to 65-29. It'll be hard to top last week, but we're gonna give it a shot. I took the Browns on Thursday night.
Sunday, 1 p.m. ET
TV: CBS | Stream: Paramount+ (click here)
I was waiting on the Chiefs to have a get-right game and they got that against the Washington Football Team. The Titans got just enough plays in the first half last week to keep them in it against Buffalo, but I have a feeling the Chiefs won't allow that to happen in Week 7.
The pick: Chiefs
Sunday, 4:05 p.m. ET
TV: Fox | Stream: fuboTV (click here)
The Eagles had the bye to think on things, but unfortunately a bye won't clean up Jalen Hurts' accuracy. I was impressed with the Raiders' resolve last week against Denver and I think they roll here.
The pick: Raiders
Sunday, 8:20 p.m. ET
TV: NBC | Stream: fuboTV (click here)
The pick: 49ers